This day in 1970 was a dark moment in American history. On May 4 of that year, four Kent State University students were shot and killed on campus by the National Guard while peacefully protesting an American bombing overseas. As we look back on the 50th anniversary of this tragedy, it’s hard not to think of “Ohio”—the famous Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young single that was written and released in response. The single was written by Neil Young and released a month after the events took place.
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CSNY don’t waste time by making this massacre sound pretty or symbolic—instead, they point fingers at “tin soldiers and Nixon.” The late ’60s and early ’70s were a tumultuous time: the Manson murders, the Vietnam war, civil rights struggles, widespread poverty, crime and drug use and a new wave of American conservatism that was just beginning to bloom. For many, it felt like the altruistic dream of the ’60s was dead, and in “Ohio,” they don’t clap and sing about peace and love, they cut to the chase with a biting, stomping hard rock track. Hear the song performed live on June 4, 1970, exactly a month after the massacre, at Fillmore East in New York City.
Listen to “Ohio” live in 1970 via the Paste vault below.